November 16, 2012
A motion by Carroll County Supervisor Bob Martin for a Virginia State Police Investigation into County Administrator Gary Larrowe’s involvement with a rental property near the Wildwood Development died Thursday night by a 3-3 count.
Regardless, Martin said at the end of the meeting that he would ask Carroll County Commonwealth’s Attorney Nathan Lyons to launch an investigation into the matter. Later, County Attorney Stephen Durbin said he was compiling documents that were looked at in 2010 on the same case that he would forward to Lyons.
Martin’s motion stemmed from a rental property Larrowe co-owned with Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet under the company name Vandalay Investments, LLC. The two purchased a one-acre parcel of property in 2006 on Airport Road near the Wildwood Commerce Park, a major Blue Ridge Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA) project . During a BRCEDA meeting in Sept. of 2010, the two divested themselves of the property to steer clear of any appearance of conflict of interest.
On Thursday, Martin made a motion for the Carroll County Board of Supervisors to request a Virginia State Police investigation in “Wildwood Industrial Park,” in particular the relationship of land dealings of Larrowe. Martin’s motion said the investigations should also ascertain “the purpose of additional land transactions with an adjacent landowner, Mr. Stone, in which it is alleged that checks passed hands and then were gathered, taken back at the beginning of the next week.”
Supervisors’ Chairman Sam Dickson asked the county attorney if an individual could request a state police investigation, or if needed to be made by the board. Durbin responded that enforcement of violations of the Conflict of Interests Act would fall under the jurisdiction of the local commonwealth’s attorney.
“My motion is to ask the Virginia State Police for an investigation,” Martin replied.
Durbin said it was his understanding that state police did conduct an investigation into the matter in Dec. of 2010.
“I thought that to be the case too, but I’m not sure that’s been the case,” Martin said.
Martin said he still wanted the state police to launch an investigation into the matter, but he would be willing to amend his motion for Lyons to do the investigation or in conjunction with state police.
Supervisor Joshua Hendrick said he thought the Commonwealth’s Attorney had to prompt a state police investigation. Hendrick said he knew that because he was also the subject of a conflict of interest investigation before being cleared recently by the state’s Attorney General regarding inspections on Fancy Gap utilities projects.
“I’ve been through this one time before,” Hendrick said. “It has to start with the Commonwealth’s Attorney.”
Martin said he wasn’t suggesting it, but he wanted to know whose jurisdiction malfeasance or misfeasance falls under.
“It just needs to be solved. I am not expecting to find anything there, but we’ve got to get on with life,” Martin said. “The law is the law and Mr. Hendrick went from breaking the law to meeting the law. Whatever the law is, it needs to be cleared up.”
Although Martin said he would prefer an independent state police investigation, he said he would amend his motion to ask the Commonwealth’s Attorney to proceed with a conflict of interest investigation regarding Larrowe. Hendrick seconded the motion.
“I’ve heard enough about it, good, bad or ugly, but it keeps coming up. I get asked questions all the time so I second it,” Hendrick said.
Hendrick and McCraw began by voting in favor of the request for an investigation, although McCraw later said he regretted voting yes. He said he voted yes because he believed that Larrowe had done nothing wrong and that an investigation would find him innocent.
Before voting, Supervisor David Hutchins said Martin and a colleague brought up the same issue in 2007, going to the County Attorney and Commonwealth’s Attorney at that time.
“I would say if Mr. Martin wants an investigation he needs to ask the Commonwealth’s Attorney for it,” Hutchins said. “I don’t think it’s this board’s place. It was asked then and it was answered, so my vote is no.”
Supervisor Tom Littrell said he was satisfied that the issue had been put to rest, so he also voted no. Martin voted in favor of the investigation, adding that he thought Hendrick handled his conflict investigation the right way, leaving everything out on the table.
Dickson then cast the third yes vote, forcing a 3-3 tie.
“I am going to vote no for the fact that I think the State Police were asked to (investigate already),” Dickson said. “And I saw the response where they found no reason to investigate, so I don’t see going down the same road twice and getting the same result.”
But Martin said the issue hasn’t been settled. It was an issue in the county several years ago and it is the issue in the county right now, he said. Dickson replied that Martin could still ask the Commonwealth’s Attorney for an investigation.
“I guarantee I will be there,” Martin said. “Frankly, if I had these allegations about me I would have gone over there personally asking for this to be cleared up, and I am just disappointed that it’s not.”
After the vote, Larrowe took time to address what he called a distraction over something that took place many years ago. He said the closing attorney on the land sale was the former county attorney at the time, and the efforts took place under the attorney’s advisement.
“I would like to make sure everybody understands that. Another thing also is I certainly would hate to disappoint Mr. Martin,” Larrowe said. “Mr. Martin, I have actually been working with our counsel, Mr. Durbin, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney about an opinion, so I would hate to disappoint you that that has not been sought after.”
Larrowe also said efforts that have been going on have derailed other activities. Larrowe said Martin had assured him they could work through the situation together, but obviously that was incorrect. Martin countered that it wasn’t anything personal.
“I certainly hate that some people have jumped off the team,” Larrowe said. “That is disappointing to me.”
Durbin then noted that at the request of Larrowe, he has been compiling documents from 2010 that were used for the evaluation done at the time. Durbin said he would have the packet ready to submit to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
“It was only at the request of the board that an investigation or a Commonwealth’s Attorney’s opinion was not sought after years ago, and so I was acting on the request of the board at that time,” Larrowe said. “So if that had been a distraction, I think that was not necessarily all on me since I was asked not to do anything.”
Martin countered that Larrowe could have “cleared this up in a heartbeat.”
Dickson said it was at his request that the board did not seek a determination on the matter. He said that was a mistake, and he apologized. Larrowe is working on getting an opinion now, Dickson said, which he thought would allow the county to move forward.
“And gentlemen, we have to work together. We don’t need to go back and bring up things that are probably pretty much settled. Maybe this will be the final settlement,” Dickson said. “I know other conflicts of interest have come through and we don’t want to go back and rehash them, so until we get a decision I think it is done.”